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IMHO: Chips in the Back Of Their Necks
by Bob "Groucho" Marks

Article Type: Editorial
Hapless Victim: Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 2
Article Date: November 20th, 2000

I must be missing an important cog in my Microsoft planetary drive, because I can't get it to engage. Or orbit, spin, or whatever the hell a planetary gear is supposed to do. All I get is a disengaged whirring sound, like a blender sadly short of limejuice, tequila, triple sec, and ice.

Ever since its release a short time back, Microsoft's Combat Simulator 2 has not suffered from a lack of kind reviews and deafening praise. I've read these articles, played the sim, and then read another gushing article. Geez, guys, get a room. I'm obviously missing something, so I fire up CFS2 again. Each time, I'm left with a nagging question: What in the hell are they talking about? The only obvious explanation I can come up with is that Microsoft has buried thought-control chips deep into the spinal cords of these reviewers. If I were you, I'd look for scars.

Collaborator Blues

I will admit it . . . I was an early cheerleader of CFS2. I flew the Zero at E3 2K. It looked and flew well, and the airplanes actually disassembled themselves upon being spanked. I was one of the first to ping the team on the features of the upcoming bad-boy of combat flight simulation during an interview for this very website. Tucker Hatfield, Rob Brown, and the rest of the MS developers of CFS2 are such genuinely nice guys, and soooo into it, that I had the highest of hopes for them. Shooting the crap for a couple of hours at the Airventure 2000 air show convention in Oshkosh, the MS team promised such cool stuff as friendly AI that learns, wingman selection, and other very cool stuff. It became pretty obvious that such airplane-conversant people just have to produce a superior flight simulator. Besides, these guys have the combined might of More Money Than God behind them.

Well, I'm not sure what exactly happened between that impression and what was actually spit out by the Ministry of Distractions in Redmond. After much hassling I received one of the early beta versions, and received a rush of pure, undiluted, still refrigerated, injected-straight-into-the arteries disappointment. The airplanes were pretty, no doubt, but the damage model made each of the flyable aircraft as fragile as a cryogenically frozen dragonfly, and all of the cool details were turned off.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to see early copies of sims before their pre-primetime debut must work carefully to separate the good stuff from the propaganda; a task made all the more daunting by the fact that a preview copy is by definition a work in progress. Despite my cynical leanings, I expressed a sincere optimism that CFS2 could possibly prove to be a world-beater. With the MS team learning from the smoldering lameness of CFS1: I reasoned, CFS2 could not help but truly rock.

Wishful thinking is a wonderful crutch, don't you agree?

Then I received my copy of CFS2 Gold. The actual Gold release of CFS2, unfortunately, confirmed the trend I feared. CFS2 was deeply flawed.

Since this is my column, I have decided to become equal time. Therefore, as I wade through the groveling masses that bow daily to The House That Bill Built, this IMHO features a voice of dissent among the legions of the implanted.


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